The paper by Hunter-Reel et al.[1] in the August 2009 issue of Addiction raises a number of interesting issues with regard to an attachment theory of addiction [2]. It follows that with any powerful attachment the fundamental behaviour of those so attached is to stay in constant contact with their object of attachment by all necessary actions, and if separated to strive to be reunited as soon as possible by all available means. A corollary is that relapse is normal, natural, normative or, in the jargon of Information Technology, ‘the default position’. Relapse is only an issue if (a) contact with or the process of making contact with the loved object causes harm to the subject and/or through them directly to other people, or (b) the behaviour offends some moral, ethical or legal code. We need models of attachment rather than models of relapse. When I look at some, at least, of the models of relapse it seems to me we are seeing narrative presented as scientific analysis using the jargon of academic psychology. Conspicuous among these are Prochaska & DiClemente [3], Marlatt & Gordon [4] and Marlatt & Witikiewitz [5].Their accounts of relapse are narratives, allegories of redemption and salvation that parallel so closely John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress[6]. This parallel should occasion no surprise, as such thinking is part of the dominant American Protestant Puritan tradition. The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous unashamedly outline the same metaphorical journey as a spiritual quest for redemption and salvation. These current descriptions of the twin journeys of recovery and relapse [3–5] are metaphorical moral narratives, and as such are susceptible to literary criticism but not to scientific analysis.

Declaration of interest